I don’t believe in doing things halfway – least of all when it comes to fighting Batten disease. I get that from my mom.
I used to run 30 miles a week. I ran a minimum of six days out of every week. When races rolled around, my body ached. I averaged a 9:00 mile or slower for long races, but I really had to dig deep for that. I knew I could run faster, but my body wouldn’t respond.
Last fall, I decided to cut back on my mileage. I went to 20 miles a week. A couple of days each week, I traded my runs for walks or weights. I dropped the 10-mile runs. I decided to trust my body. I hoped that if I could keep up a training run for seven or eight miles, I could bring it on race day for 10 or 13.1.
Some people might have said I was “slacking off,” but you know what? My body stopped aching – and I got FASTER. I set a new personal record for 13.1 miles at the Thunder Road Marathon in November. In February, I set a personal record for 10 miles at the Charlotte 10 Miler. In March, I set another record for 3.1 miles at the Run the Creek 5K. My training runs got faster, too. I used to average 10:00 miles for those. Earlier this week, I ran a mile in 5:45. And I didn’t even do that on fresh legs – I’d already run five miles.
The point is that the fight against Batten disease deserves our best, but sometimes, “giving our best” means taking care of ourselves and reserving our energy so that we’ll be fresh when we have to climb the toughest hills. For a long time, I’ve said that this is a journey – not a sprint. I know that there’s only so much we can do with the cards we were dealt. I know that our situation sucks and that nothing that happens in any other facet of my life – regardless of how wonderful it may be – will REPLACE what we have lost and will lose. But I’m not any good to anyone when I’m in my darkest place. I’m not useful when I’m fighting writer’s block at 2 a.m. or yelling at my laptop because the Taylor’s Tale website has a glitch due to some technical issue out of my control. I’m not good to anyone when I’m losing my mind over someone else’s bonehead moves or heartless actions or words. When I find myself in my darkest place, it’s time to hit pause. Sometimes I remember to press the button; other times, I forget. I forgot more often than not over the past six-plus years, and I can’t get that time back. But my memory is improving, and my life – and my net impact on this fight – will get better as a result.
I LOVE my sister more than anything, and I HATE Batten disease more than anything. I want to eradicate Batten disease, but if Taylor could tell us what she wants and feels, I think she would tell us that she doesn’t want us to eradicate our friendships, marriages, careers and lifelong dreams in the process. She would tell us that we can fight Batten disease and have those things, too. She would tell us that she wants us to be happy. Not “happy” like we were before Batten disease entered our lives or as if we’ve moved on – but “happy” as in we’re going to recognize the things we still have that are good and keep it from robbing us of everything we’ve ever known.
I believe that we CAN win this battle. I just don’t want us to lose everything else that makes us who we are along the way. Razing all the cities in your own kingdom is no way to win a war. If you kill all the bad guys but have to go home to smoldering ruins, what’s the point?
I can’t let Batten disease steal my sister AND everyone who loves her.